Should you go to Grad school?

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Well, the answer is a good news, bad news situation. The bad news: Probably not. The good news: That’s probably okay. If you’re still on the fence about going to grad school, there are a few details to consider before you make a decision.

Going to college to get your undergrad degree and going to grad school are two very different things. While you’ve spent your glorious undergrad days out there learning, experimenting, taking chances and figuring out what exactly it is you want to make of yourself, grad school is a completely different story. Grad school is an intense and focused experience that will allow you to delve deeper into the subject you choose. It’s not the time for exploring or figuring out what you want to do. If you’re on the fence about what it is you’re passionate about, grad school probably isn’t for you.

If you’re considering grad school because you want to put off the frightening adventure that is the job hunt, don’t. Yes, you’ll learn immensely in grad school, but nothing is a substitute for actual work experience. I know it’s scary to put yourself out there, pushing resumes, getting rejected time and again in your quest, but if it’s that fear that’s making you consider grad school, I advise caution. Grad school can be brutal, and it takes real passion to power through it, and I’m afraid avoiding an uncomfortable situation isn’t inspiration enough.

You might just be making yourself overqualified. Talk to a bunch of grad school graduates, and I’m sure this story will come up at least once. Being overqualified is a weird situation to be in. Your employer knows you’ll do a good job but is afraid you’ll either get bored at the job or that you’ll feel you aren’t being paid for what you’re worth. Employers would rather avoid paying you more for having a grad degree and may not hire you at all. It’s a weird feeling to be told you’re too good for a job, and with a graduate degree you’re setting yourself to a higher standard, so better set your sights equally high or risk this scenario.

If you were never into research to begin with or pushing your field of study further, grad school might not be fun for you. If all you want is to work in the industry, and unless that job you have in mind specifically calls for a masters’ degree, you might not need to battle through grad school to get to where you want to be. Grad school is heavily academic, meaning you’ll be learning about experimental concepts—most times not even adopted by the industry yet—and for good reason.

Some methods succeed, some don’t. Some ideas are interesting but might not make a big difference in the long run. That’s the nature of academia whether you’re in the humanities or the sciences. Everything you learn might not be as practical as you hoped for.

Attending grad school will affect every aspect of your life. You might not find the time to hang out with friends and family like you’re used to; you might not have a regular sleep schedule; you might find yourself pushing off meals just to meet deadlines. That’s just how grad school is. It takes a little adjustment, a little sacrifice. If you enjoy your comfort, think long and hard before making this decision.

Grad school can be a wonderful and genuine opportunity for the right reasons. It might be someone’s ticket to a new country and a new life. Others might really want to be at the bleeding edge of advancement. A few might picture themselves becoming advocates and educators of their field of study. But for the rest of us, take it from a grad student who didn’t know any of this until he found himself in the thick end of his program: Some pursuits are best left to the truly noble.

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